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Written by Texas Highways

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In the Big Bend feeder town of Marathon, a lone, multicolored mirage appears on the horizon. Luckily, the fanciful sight gives way to a very real, if unlikely, organic bed-and-breakfast made almost entirely of recycled paper, Styrofoam, and sand.

bennos

A saltwater-scented breeze tugs at the end of a roll of paper towels planted in the middle of our wooden picnic table. Warm rays of sunshine dodge between triangles of awning over the restaurant patio. The sound of gentle surf carries from the beach just across the street, where brown pelicans glide in a V above the surface of the waves.

Beer Tour MAA 212The craft beer scene continues to thrive in Texas, and Dallas is no exception. Twenty-seven of Texas’ 189 breweries and brew pubs call the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex home, according to The Brewer’s Association, a national organization dedicated to promoting independent American brewers.

climing gymcafeTexas has a score of rock-climbing gyms, but only one boasts an eatery that has earned kudos for its food on a national level. The 5.ATE Café, tucked inside InSPIRE Rock Indoor Climbing and Team Building Center in Spring, just north of Houston, opened in December of 2013. Initially, InSPIRE attracted attention for the height and scale of its climbing walls, which stretch as tall as 43 feet and span about 17,000 square feet. But it soon gained recognition for its café as well, named for a climbing-route difficulty rating of 5.8 (a beginner-level ascent). Whereas most other gyms offer packaged snacks or smoothies, InSPIRE’s 5.ATE Café features a full menu for a proper sit-down meal. Plus, its open eating area, in view of the action on the climbing walls, provides a dining experience like none other in the state. Determined to find out what all the fuss was about, I drove out to Spring to see if the café lived up to its reputation—and to try my skills at rock-climbing.

Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge Larry Ditto MG 0882

My son Byrdie had been anticipating our planned visit to the Alamo Inn B&B for weeks. The two of us have been birding ever since Byrdie, then two years old, pulled down an unused field guide from the bookshelf and asked me to read it to him as a bedtime story. He’s six now, and thanks to him I’ve caught the birding bug, too. Still, for all our countless trips to birding destinations near and far, we’d never stayed at a place designed by and for birders. Adding to Byrdie's excitement, he had recently decided he wanted to be a travel writer—he’s also wanted to be an ornithologist, a veterinarian, and an astronaut—and he was looking forward to serving as my apprentice.

punoff2Lend us an ear and we’ll give you more corn!” That’s how the emcee greeted the jovial crowd at the very first O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships. And now, 40 years later, the annual Pun-Off is still going strong. Shucks, how could you not be a-maized by that?

Texas High Catalena Hatters 131

A customer walks into Catalena Hatters looking for a special hat to match the one his friend never takes off his head, presenting a photo from his cell phone as a challenge to the hatmaker.

Galveston 0370 2Head east down Seawall Boulevard in Galveston, past the lights and activity of Historic Pleasure Pier, beyond the elegant Hotel Galvez and Stewart Beach Park’s broad expanse of sand dotted with blue umbrellas and beach toys, through tangles of grasses and mangroves on either side and, just past a tranquil lagoon before the pavement dead ends at water, turn right onto Boddeker Drive.

Bowling Museum MAA 180Depending on what decade you grew up in, bowling can conjure some basic stereotypes – a group of men, who might resemble Al Bundy or Homer Simpson, congregating with like-minded souls who enjoy bowling while drinking beer and possibly smoking cigars.

WVO 5571Now that In-N-Out Burger has opened dozens of locations in Texas, there have been raves—as well as scattered “mehs”—for the California chain. But as a frequent highway traveler, with both a non-chain mindset and a “make good time” mantra, I prefer the burgers served at independent joints near freeway exits. These are the stops you relish on the road, places like Willy Burger in Beaumont, off I-10, and Carpenter Hamburgers in Corsicana, less than a mile from I-45. You get your old-fashioned cheeseburger fix, and then you’re back on the freeway in three minutes or less.

RH Grill MAA 228Since my husband and I moved from Fort Worth to a ranch south of Glen Rose a decade ago, we’ve be-come impromptu tour guides to friends visiting the area for its hilly scenery along the Paluxy River, numerous bed-and-breakfasts, Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, and other nearby attractions. They inevitably ask us where they should eat, and we always recommend our go-to place, the Riverhouse Grill.

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